Warren Gaskill, board member of the Sustainable Woods Co-op, compared sustainable forestry to the organic food movement, noting how organics began with a small group of people committed to the health of the earth, that has now grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. As an organization, CDS is uniquely poised to help build this new market as well as effect a shift in consumer consciousness toward purchasing sustainable wood products. “CDS has an array of resources for value-added agriculture. We have relationships with food co-ops and their consumers, as well as with producers. We can work up and down the cooperative network, as we have vertical integration along co-op principles,” said CDS executive director, Kevin Edberg.
Here’s an example of how that works. The Sustainable Woods Co-op is selling firewood for fireplaces and chimneys directly to consumers at the Willy St. Co-op in Madison. It’s not a huge part of the wood co-op’s business, but a very important one, because it provides a market for the wood that’s harvested to help the forest thrive. Management of sustainable forests includes “worst first” cutting in order to grow better trees. (Part of the early, minimal payback for sustainable foresters). By contrast, traditional loggers often will take the best, more valuable trees now—and leave the “worst” behind without replanting to replenish the resource.
As well as providing a place to sell the “worst first” wood that gets foresters through the sustainable forest transition, Willy St. Co-op is helping educate people about why this important. They have signage about the Sustainable Woods Co-op on the woodbox, but Willy St. Co-op also ran information in their newsletter about them that goes out to its 8,000 members. “We’re telling our customers about their mission, their woods and their philosophy,” said Lauri McKean, member services manager. “We want to help them with what they’re looking to do.”
To find out more about the Sustainable Woods Co-op, visit their website at